On the news late Thursday that the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) would not contain an amendment eliminating social media's immunity from civil liability for third party content moderation, President Trump tweeted that he would, indeed, veto the must-pass bill over the issue.
"Very sadly for our Nation, it looks like Senator @JimInhofe will not be putting the Section 230 termination clause into the Defense Bill," the President tweeted. "So bad for our National Security and Election Integrity. Last chance to ever get it done. I will VETO!"
The President had tweeted earlier in the week that "if the very dangerous & unfair Section 230 is not completely terminated" he planned to veto.
The President has long argued that social media censors conservative speech. Back in May, he issued an executive order that included petitioning the FCC to find a way to use Sec. 230 to regulate social media content. The issue took on new urgency for the President after Twitter flagged his tweets equating mail-in ballots and others. Twitter has continued to flag his tweets alleging massive election fraud, including a number of new tweets Thursday.
Both Republicans and Democrats in Congress have issues with the breadth of that shield as employed by companies whose wealth and power rival many countries. Republicans argue it is used to censor conservative speech with impugnity, while Democrats argue it is used for the dissemination of fake news and the making of political mischief with impunity. But the most likely scenario is that Congress clarifies its limits, as some are trying to do with amendments to the must-pass defense appropriations act.
Even social media sites, notably Facebook, have called for some kind of regulation, including tweaking the section, but that is partly to avoid the greater threat of elimination.
President-elect Joe Biden has even called for deep-sixing the immunity, though that is unlikely given the section's importance to the social media model.
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Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.